Nelie and Edouard Jacquemart-Andre only pursued art from the 18th century and earlier. Monet, Manet, Renoir, Sisley, Degas, and Morisot were all active in the 1890s and later. Presumably Nelie and Edouard agreed with the conventional wisdom that the Impressionists were a flash in the pan, destined for the dustbins.
On the other hand, Nelie and Eduoard bought for the future; they always intended their home to end up as an art museum. And each had a keen eye for a bargain. They could have picked up Impressionist pieces for a song, and at least stored them away in a closet in case they ever amounted to anything.
Today, arcoss the Seine at the Musee d’Orsay, people shuffle through packed galleries and stand shoulder to shoulder to gaze at priceless Impressionist paintings. The Musee Jacquemart-Andre is never crowded; most tourists never set foot in it. Nelie and Edouard had impeccable taste for the treasures of the past, but they must have closed their minds to the artistic innovations going on right under their noses.
The glorious Tiepolo fresco “Henri III Being Welcomed to the Contarini Villa” was commissioned by Contarinis 200 years after the historical event, to commemorate one of the proudest and happiest events in their family’s history.
When Nelie and Edouard installed the Tiepolo fresco 200 years later in their Winter Garden, they were also gazing backward into a golden time they might have preferred to their own time.
The tourist wandering the Musee Jacquemart-Andre today is gazing backward through the Parisian Belle Epoque of the 1890s, at a fresco painted in 1745 to depict a historical event from 1574. Much as I love history, I do try to live in the moment. What am I overlooking in my own contemporary world?
Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!